Transforming The Sample

The world of electronic sample-based musicians rely on music made by other people for much of what they do. I’m not talking about your average DJ you hire for a wedding or party (which another post in itself), I’m talking about the true art (and yes it is an art) of mixing music, transforming ready-made tracks into a unique piece that is distinguishable from its sources.

The first image that I think usually comes to mind for most people when they hear about electronic, sample-based music is a guy behind a mixer, pressing play on a machine and fiddling with knobs. He will sometime put his hands in the air to show the crowd he’s having a good time. Many people dismiss these types of performers because they tend to stay behind a table and are unable to demonstrate the prowess of their skills. The result is a visually lackluster attempt to perform.

While I understand critics’ frustration with the simplicity of pressing a few buttons and calling it a show, I feel there is a significant misunderstanding in the very root of what these artists are trying to achieve.

The building blocks are different

While music is made using a combination of notes, sample-based musicians tend to approach their work using, well… samples. Clusters of already curated notes. Sometimes they choose to keep recognizable melodies intact, sometimes they cut up musical lines to give themselves more options in rearranging them. This, in my opinion is a very different way of approaching music than how we traditionally listen to it. When listening to sample-based music, the intricacies of the melodies deepen as a result of using clusters of notes rather than single notes or structured chords.

Two great examples of sample-based artists are the mash-up DJ Madeon and the experimental musician Daedalus. This type of music is not for everyone, but I urge you take a listen and try to focus on identifying collections of notes rather than a melody line.

Madeon is a Youtube-based musician/DJ that works within the realm of sample-base musicians, specifically in mashups (“mashing” together recognizable popular music tracks to create a completely new work). His song, simply called, Pop Culture really shows the skill level and attention to detail that is needed within the realm of sample-based music. This song was composed using samples of over 30 different pop songs.

Los Angeles-based Daedalus is a trained jazz bassist and works mainly within the realm of experimental sample-based music. His love of Jazz and electronic artists fuel an ever-evolving discography of albums that range from laid-back downtempo music to hard-hitting club thumpers. What I find so unique about his work and performances is that he opens the inner workings of his tracks to the audience. Armed with a laptop and a grid of samples, Daedelus shows the crowd how he physically triggers each sound within the track. The end result is a mesmerizing fusion of light and sound.